Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Clinic Files

January 1, 2019

2018 By the Numbers

Species Treated: 97

2018 was a great year for expanding our knowledge surrounding some of our less common patients. Between our two California wildlife centers, Bird Rescue cared for 97 different species of aquatic birds! Some of our unique species this year include: Belted Kingfisher, Long-tailed Duck, Pelagic Cormorant, Black-vented Shearwater, Rhinoceros Auklet and both Brown and Red-footed Booby.

Washing Birds: 100

Even in the absence of a major oil spill, our staff and volunteers still wash birds throughout the year. Some of these birds arrive oiled from the natural seep off of the coast of Ventura, others come in contaminated by other substances such as vegetable or motor oil. In 2018 we washed over 100 birds ranging from Great Horned Owls to Brown Pelicans. Working with these cases of individual oiled birds allows us to improve our skills and training so that our team remains ready to respond in the event that a spill does occur.

Total Birds: 3,000+

Between our SF Bay-Delta wildlife center in Fairfield and our L.A. wildlife center in San Pedro, we cared for over 3,000 patients in 2018. While we do care for a broad range of species, there are some types of birds that come into our care most frequently as a result of various forms of urban/wildlife conflict. Orphaned ducks, geese, herons, and egrets flood our centers during the baby bird season when their nests have been disturbed, or when they have been separated from their parents. Gulls, pelicans, and cormorants are some of the birds we see most frequently injured due to fishing line entanglement or hook ingestion. Grebes come into care almost daily during the winter months that have become oiled due to natural seep on their journey south for the winter.

Volunteer Hours: 20,000+

Our team of dedicated volunteers are what make this work possible. Together they put in over 20,000 hours of work over the course of 2018. From bird care, feeding and cleaning to education, outreach and administrative assistance, our volunteers do it all with smiles on their faces. Thank you so much to each and every person who volunteers their time and efforts to help rescue waterbirds in crisis! If you would like to volunteer at either of our California wildlife centers, you can learn more and apply HERE.

Birds Released: 1267

Our favorite number from this year: 1267. That is the number of birds successfully released or transferred in 2018. This is the reason we do the work that we do. There is nothing quite like watching a wild bird return to its natural home in good health and full strength. We hope that these moments and images inspire you to take action every day to protect the natural home of wildlife and ourselves.


December 28, 2018

Vet Files: Innovative Treatment Saves Bufflehead With Bill Fractures

Female Bufflehead with multiple fractures of the bill after surgery to place pins and epoxy in place for its fractured mandible. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds/International Bird Rescue

Fast-setting epoxy was used to hold six tiny pins placed in both sides of this lady Bufflehead’s jaw. Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr/International Bird Rescue

Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, had to think creatively when a female Bufflehead came into care with multiple fractures of the bill. Buffleheads are North America’s smallest diving duck and this one weighed in at only 260g on arrival, making this patient’s injuries particularly difficult to treat.

The bones in her mandibles were very small, so Dr. Duerr decided to miniaturize a technique she had used successfully in the past on bigger bird bills. She placed angled pins into the bill on either side of each fracture through a piece of specialized bandage, which acts as a gasket between bill and epoxy. The pins were then embedded in quick-setting epoxy to hold them in place. Since this Bufflehead’s small bill was broken in so many spots, Dr. Duerr had to use very fine needles as pins and take extreme care when embedding them in epoxy so as to not make the apparatus too heavy for the little bird. It was then a matter of waiting to see how well this duck’s broken bones would heal.

Another big concern for this bird was her species. Buffleheads have very delicate feet that are not built for standing around like a mallard. Their toe skin can easily become damaged by being out of the water, which puts them at risk for tendon and bone problems. For this reason, we typically try to get patients like this one living in the water full time as soon as possible, even though orthopedic pins are not generally advisable to soak in water due to the risk of infection. In balancing the best approach to her recovery we decided her prognosis for a good outcome would be to let her swim in the pool despite the pins in her bill.

The pins holding her mouth together didn’t slow this Bufflehead down one bit! She spent almost two weeks swimming around in one of our outdoor pools, seemingly uninhibited by her unique apparatus. Once the pins were removed, the holes healed up quickly and she was soon ready for release. Thanks to the clever treatment and attentive care she received from the staff and volunteers at Bird Rescue, this resilient little Bufflehead returned to her natural home in the wild, just 26 days after she had been admitted.

After the pins were removed, the holes healed up quickly and the Bufflehead was soon released. Photo by Dr. Rebecca Duerr/International Bird Rescue

December 10, 2018

Patient of the Week: Black-crowned Night-Heron

With the fishing hook safely removed, the Black-crowned Night-Heron after recovery will be released back to the wild.

One fishing hook can make dinner miserable for any bird.

This month our veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr performed surgery on a beautiful Black-crowned Night-Heron at our Los Angeles Wildlife Center. The heron had ingested a hook which became lodged in its stomach tissue. During surgery Dr. Duerr created a small incision and was able to carefully remove the hook and stitch up the heron.

The patient is doing well and recuperating in one of our outdoor enclosures. We wish it a swift recovery!

X-ray shows fishing hook in Heron.

Black-crowned Night-Heron recuperating in the outdoor aviary.

December 7, 2017

Clinic Files: Canvasback Neck Wound

This beautiful male Canvasback was found bleeding from his neck in Milpitas, CA, after being attacked by an unknown predator. The rescuer took the duck to our friends at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose, CA, who cleaned his wound and started him on antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain medication. They then transferred him to us because of the severity of the wound.

Canvasback – Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

Despite the horrible neck wound, he was able to hold his head up pretty normally and did not have any obvious evidence that his spine, esophagus, or trachea was involved, which gave us hope that the wound had a good chance of healing well. Our staff carefully cleaned and bandaged the wound, preparing him for surgery on the following day. The injury affected over 50% of the circumference of the duck’s neck, with substantial muscle and jugular vein damage, but our experienced veterinarian was able to remove all the damaged tissue and close the wound. We are happy to report that this gorgeous boy is now living in one of our outdoor pelagic pools and is on the road to recovery—which includes eating LOTS of krill! We will continue to monitor and care for this bird until he is fully ready to be released.


Canvasback – Photo by Jennifer Linander

One of our core programs at Bird Rescue is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Services Program. Bird Rescue operates two full-time wildlife centers in California and one turn-key facility in Alaska. While our Alaska center is only available for emergency situations, our San Francisco Bay-Delta and Los Angeles wildlife centers take in injured and sick aquatic birds year-round. Our facilities specialize in treating wounded, sick, oiled, and orphaned aquatic birds with the goal of releasing them into the wild once they are recovered.

For more information on the work we do at Bird Rescue, visit our website. For an inside peek at what goes on in our outdoor pools, check out our birdcam! For questions about this post, please email Bird Rescue at clinicfiles@bird-rescue.org.